Service project helps Legion family give back to community

Kim Kay McCarty Martin took a moment after pulling weeds at the War Memorial Center to reflect on the community service project taking place Friday morning in conjunction with the American Legion National Convention in Milwaukee.

“It’s great to give back. I especially like that,” said McCarty Martin, the Warrant Officer for Post 341 in Great Falls, Montana.

This is the fourth convention community service project that McCarty Martin and others from Montana have participated in.

“I hope (the community) will understand that this is a way for veterans to give back, not only to other veterans, but also to the community,” she said. “I know the Montana community appreciates when the American Legion cleans up the highways and things like that.”

A group of Legion Family members, including PNC’s Denise Rohan and James W. “Bill” Oxford, drove to the War Memorial Center along Lake Michigan on Friday morning to help clean up landscaping, touch up paint on six granite barriers in front of the center depicting branches of service and a citation from General Douglas MacArthur, polish black marble surfaces throughout the center and clear debris from the nearby Vietnam War Memorial.

The community service projects were first held in conjunction with the 2013 national convention in Houston.

“We need to increase and improve the visibility of the American Legion, and this is just one of the ways we can do that,” Oxford said. “It’s about making sure the public and society understand who the American Legion is and what we do for the country.”

Dan Buttery, president and CEO of the War Memorial Center, said he was “blown away” when the center was nominated as a beneficiary of this year’s service project, in conjunction with the 103rd National Convention.

“Because it’s a 1957 building, I have a very small staff, we try to do what we can to stay in front, but there’s always a to-do list,” Buttery said. “…Having all these beautiful hearts and minds and servicemen here, Legionnaires, is perfect because I know they get it. It’s just amazing. … The help is extraordinary.

The War Memorial Center was dedicated on Veterans Day in 1957 and was designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen, whose work also included the St. Louis Gateway Arch, New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, and the Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC.

Finding a way to match that architecture was a welcome challenge for War Memorial Center staff as they developed their new exhibit, a gallery honoring Wisconsin’s 64 Medal of Honor recipients.

The War Memorial Center will also host American Legion Family Day as part of the weekend Oktoberfest activities. Buttery sees the event as a win-win for the center and the Legion.

“It’s a joint fundraiser between the American Legion and us. So it’s also about giving back to the veteran community in a financial way,” he said.

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